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Date: Christmas 1a
Text: Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Theme: God's Obedient Son and Obedient Children

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

A mother, visiting a department store during the Christmas season, brought her son to the toy department. The little boy saw a gigantic rocking horse; he ran to it; climbed on it; and rocked back and forth on it for almost an hour.

When it was time to leave, the mother begged and pleaded with the little boy to get off of the horse and come home with her. It didn't work. The little boy continued his rocking, totally ignoring his mother and her pleas. "Come on, son," she begged, "I have to go home to get your father's dinner ready."

The tyke refused to budge and kept rocking and rocking and rocking. The manager came and tried to get the little boy off of the rocking horse without any success at all. Eventually, in total desperation, they called in a child psychologist. The child psychologist arrived at the store, walked over the boy, bent over, and whispered a few words in the boy's ear. Wonder of wonders, the boy promptly jumped off of the horse and ran to his mother's side, reminding her that it was time to leave and get daddy's dinner ready.

The mother was incredulous. "How did you do it? What did you say to him?" she asked.

The child psychologist hesitated for a moment and looked at the floor. He hesitated for a moment more and then said, "It was kind of easy. All I said was, `If you don't get off of that horse right now, I'm going to give you a spanking you'll never forget.'"

The child psychologist got results. He turned the little brat into an obedient child. As we look at all of today's lessons the thought of obedience is present in all of them. As we look at today's Gospel lesson, we see the Holy Family's escape to Egypt, where they went to escape King Herod's murderous rage. When the time came for Jesus and his family to return to the Holy Land, St. Matthew tells us that this fulfilled the prophecy, made by the prophet Hosea, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

Remember the historical context of our Gospel lesson. As I stated, Jesus' life was in danger and Joseph was forced to flee with his family to Egypt. This flight into Egypt was a type, a picture, of Israel's flight into Egypt in the time of Jacob. Jacob and his children and grandchildren went down to Egypt in order to escape the dangers of famine and starvation. Israel did not stay there forever. They stayed four hundred years. The day came when the Lord visited his people and brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery.

The Lord called Israel out of Egypt. We see this prophecy made in Hosea 11:1, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the farther they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to idols." Hosea wasn't the only prophet to condemn Israel's apostasy. Isaiah, in today's Old Testament lesson, does the same. It's unfortunate that our lesson ends at verse 9 because our lesson deals with all the kindnesses which the Lord bestowed upon Israel. He says that, "surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me;" and he became their Savior. But in verse 10, which our lesson omits, Isaiah tells us, "Yet they rebelled against him and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them."

In today's Gospel lesson we see two things standing in stark contrast. We see Israel, God's son, turn its back upon its God and Savior and run away from him. We see Israel's out and out disobedience. And St. Matthew, by inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, contrasts that attitude with that of Jesus, the perfectly obedient Son of God. Jesus, who was perfectly obedient in all that he did.

Matthew gives a stark contrast between Israel, the disobedient son, and Jesus, the perfectly obedient Son. As we look at Jesus' obedience we see that his was an active obedience. In theological talk, Jesus' active obedience means that Jesus willingly place himself under the law and its demands and perfectly fulfilled the law, something which we are unable to do. Paul tells us of this active obedience in today's epistle lesson. Paul tells us that "when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law." Christ's active obedience means that he willingly did what we are unable to do. He came among us, the sinless Son of God, and kept the law perfectly in our place. He was the perfectly obedient Son, in contrast to Israel's disobedience, in contrast to our own disobedience.

Yet the Bible also tells us of Christ's passive obedience. Theologically this means that Christ willingly placed himself under the curse of the law. He took our place under the law; he underwent the damnation which we deserve. Paul tells us this in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." In Christ's perfect obedience we see a trade take place. Our sins are traded for Jesus' perfection. Jesus takes our damnation upon himself; on the cross he suffers our damnation; and he gives us heaven and eternal life with himself as an absolute free gift.

Jesus' perfect righteousness, his perfect obedience is given to us as a free gift. Jesus takes our sins upon himself. He takes our damnation upon himself; he forgives our sins and gives us heaven. Rebellious children, you and I, become loving children of our loving heavenly Father. And that should confront us with the question, "how does the loving child live in obedience to a loving heavenly Father?" How do we live as God's obedient children?

We live as God's obedient children by knowing our relationship with God. We see this in Psalm 111, verse 10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow God's precepts have good understanding." Our life as God's obedient children is lived in a personal relationship to our God and Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. This means that we confess that God is our Redeemer. He reached out, at great personal cost, and saved us. He saved us by sending his one and only Son into our world to die on the cross in order to forgive all of our sins. This is the starting point for living as God's obedient children. We live not in fear of God's punishment but as a response to his love for us in Jesus our Savior.

We live as God's obedient children by knowing God's will for our lives. This means that we objectively know God's will for our lives. So often we like to think we know God's will but we confuse his will with our own. We come to know God's will, God's will for our lives, through a regular encounter with God's Holy Word. In that Word, the Bible, we learn of God's Law, his will for our lives. We learn how we should live as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. God's law lays it out before us. He tells us what it means to love him with our whole heart. He tells us what it means to love our neighbors as our selves. God's law acts as a guide for Christian living.

And when we recognize that God's law is a guide for our living we also learn that God's law is given to us for our own good and protection. It protects us from harmful acts that can and will hurt us. If we, as a society and as individuals, recognized the validity of God's law and determined that we would maintain sexual purity, the Sixth Commandment, we would stop the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases today. God gives us his law to protect us, to protect from ourselves and the hurt we would inflict upon ourselves, our loved ones, and the people around us.

We live as God's obedient children when we make a conscious decision to live in God's will. This is sanctification talk. It is the language of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who responds to God's love willingly and lovingly. We aren't trying to buy God's love. We are responding to God's love--make that point perfectly plain. As believers, as people who are already saved, we make a conscious decision to live in God's will in order to bring glory to his holy name.

This means that we recognize sin in our lives and confess it. We receive God's forgiveness, his forgiveness so freely poured out upon the cross. In that forgiveness we receive power; we receive power over sin; we receive power to live as God's loving children, recognizing sin and turning from it.

Living in God's will, living as his obedient children, means that we feast upon God in Word and Sacrament for there we receive the power which God gives us to live lives which please him. The beauty of our God is that he not only tells us to live as his loving children but he gives us the power and the desire to do it in his gospel, proclaimed in Word and Sacrament. But we do fail; we do sin and when we do, God is there for us, never turning his back upon us, forgiving us, restoring us, and empowering us to go forth again to live in his will.

Empowered by God, knowing his will as revealed in Scripture, as his redeemed children, we decide, we make a conscious decision as Christians, to live in his will. When sin confronts us we say, "No." That is how we live as God's obedient children of our loving heavenly Father. Our obedience flows from Christ's perfect obedience--given to us on the cross. It is our response to God's love for us already poured out in Jesus our Savior. Amen.

And may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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